8 Questions with Riad Asmat

25 Jun 2020 / 14:41 H.

BUZZ recently got the opportunity to pick the brains of Riad Asmat, the Chief Executive Officer of AirAsia and get his thoughts on fatherhood, the new normal and what’s next for AirAsia.

1. What was your childhood like and who was your role model growing up?

“My childhood hero, and still my hero today, is definitely my dad, Asmat Kamaludin.

“I spent about three to five years of my childhood in Belgium when my dad was stationed there. Upon our return to Malaysia, we settled into a typical middle-class family life in Petaling Jaya. Being the eldest, I was a mischievous kid, always running around the neighbourhood.

“I’m thankful that we four children (including my late brother) grew up in a healthy household where everything was provided for. My dad was involved in our lives as much as he could, and we shared many fond memories together, especially when he took us to the cinema to catch every Star Wars film that came out.

“I got to compare what dad was like at work and at home. I think he was stricter with his officers than his children. He definitely set an example for how we should behave, such as being attentive and punctual. Many of those lessons remain with me to this day.

“When my dad sent me to the US at the age of 17 to pursue my studies, I was given the chance to explore on my own, and he always told me to be open and meet new people.”

8 Questions with Riad Asmat

His Hero ... Riad with his dad, Tan Sri Asmat Kamaludin — Pixs courtesy of Riad Asmat

2. What approach do you take when it comes to parenting?

“Growing up, the sense of open-mindedness that my dad always taught my siblings and I, made me look at things differently. While he was open-minded, he was also strict, when necessary. But he always encouraged us to explore and experience things to a certain degree on our own.

“The open way my dad taught me to think and to live has made me who I am [today]. These are the very same lessons that I passed to my own three children.”

3. How did the COVID outbreak and MCO affect you and your family life?

“While it was unexpected, we understood what should be done.

“During the early phases of MCO, I ensured that my family [abided] by the rules and regulations of the government. This was further emphasised by my sister who is a doctor, as she constantly reminded our extended family members to follow the advice and rules of the Ministry of Health.

“In addition, as someone who works in the airline industry with strict SOPs, rules and regulations, I don’t find it difficult to follow the new rules set by the government to guide my family. My parents also adjusted well to the changes, and we often had video calls during the early phases of MCO.”

4. Was it hard to adjust to having everybody at home all the time?

Safety first ... posing for a family picture with masks on — Pixs courtesy of Riad Asmat
Safety first ... posing for a family picture with masks on — Pixs courtesy of Riad Asmat

“Well, change will never be easy for everybody. It is something that we all have to embrace to a certain degree, and how quickly we embrace changes differs among individuals. I believe, as a family, we adjusted well at our own pace, and at the end of the day, the objective is to keep everyone safe and I believe we have managed to do that.”

5. What does working in the ‘new normal’ mean for you?

“Obviously there are a lot more processes and procedures for us now, in the airline industry. But I look at it as a way for us to care for each other.

“At AirAsia RedQ, we have implemented a split team on a 14-day basis for all departments, except for our operations team (pilot, cabin crew). Prior to entering the office, everyone has to submit a health declaration online and record their temperature. We also implemented floor and table markings for social distancing.

“The positive side of it is that now everyone is more careful. Everything that has been put in place is definitely for the betterment [of] everyone involved.”

6. Has working from home during the MCO made work-life balance better?

“I think the idea is to create a work-life balance for yourself, in any condition. Whether you’re at the office or at home, it is crucial to create that space between the break and your actual responsibility when it comes to your job.

“I think all of us managed it pretty well, but of course, there are adjustments to be made in terms of the new ways of working. But it goes to show how dynamic all of us can be and that we’re able to adapt to changes pretty quick.”

7. Has this experience changed your outlook in life as a professional and as a father?

“Yes, professionally, I’m more prepared in terms of dealing with any challenge. This particular situation pushed everyone to realise that anything is possible.

“But I believe that we have adjusted to it pretty well ... I believe we have learned new things, embraced new approaches [towards] the new normal.

“This will not just benefit the individuals I work with, but also the company, as it shows how agile we are, which is very crucial in this industry.

“As a father, I got to spend more time at home with my family and I definitely took full advantage of it. Having spent more time bonding with my children [allowed] me to grow into the role even more.

“My wife and children love to bake (I think my children ended up being better cooks now!). As a father, and I believe I can speak on behalf of all fathers out there, we have seen positive aspects of spending more time with our family.”

8. How has the ‘new normal’ changed the way we travel and the aviation industry?

Words of wisdom ... It is important to create a work-life balance for oneself under any conditions: Riad Asmat
Words of wisdom ... It is important to create a work-life balance for oneself under any conditions: Riad Asmat

“The travel and aviation industry has changed, with more safety measures in place. It is important for us to continuously educate travellers about safe flying and to build their confidence to start travelling again, thus we have implemented the end-to-end contactless procedures and new safety measures, as well as taking care of those most at risk.

“The safety and wellbeing of our guests and Allstars is our top priority as we comply with advice and regulations from local governments, civil aviation authorities, global and local health agencies, including the World Health Organisation.

“We kindly ask that our passengers observe the universally recommended protective precautionary measures, including practising high personal hygiene.”

Click HERE to find out more about AirAsia’s on ground and in flight safety measures

Riad and his family

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